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Drink, Binge and the Genetic Link

Ever since the discovery of the DNA by Watson and Crick the imperious role of the genes in influencing an individuals physiology has been widely acknowledged. Genes produce an array of proteins, which may exert a direct effect on an individuals functioning or, may coerce other genes to perform their roles effectively. Unprecedented advances in technology have ensured that adequate research is carried out to understand the underlying causes of all complex biological issues, including alcoholism. Unfolding the pattern of inheritance is the primary step towards understanding them.

Alcoholism is the compulsive consumption of alcoholic beverages. This dependence on alcohol cannot lay claim to a single cause and is believed to vary with social, emotional and hereditary factors. 50% of the total risk for alcoholism is attributed to heritable factors. More than a dozen genes have been identified which increases a persons risk of alcoholism, rendering the condition genetically complex. Although genes are implicated in alcoholism, they never act solo. Almost all genes act in tandem with specific environment such as abuse or neglect. Poor judgments and choices are also held responsible for alcohol dependence.

Individuals who meet the criteria for dependence have several cases of alcoholism in their families. It has now been widely acknowledged that some families possess a predisposition to alcohol dependence. Variants of several genes alter an individuals vulnerability to alcohol and also influences associated habits such as addiction, problem behavior, anxiety or depression.

It was observed with perplexity that persons who were of East Asian origin became flushed on consuming alcohol. This was attributed to an elevated level of aldehyde, a metabolite of alcohol. Aldehyde imparted an unusual color and warmth to the skin, besides causing palpitations and general weakness. The enzyme res
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